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Chapter 7 Was war Aufklärung? / What Was Enlightenment? The Turn of the Screwed “Es ist so bequem, unmündig zu sein”/“It is so comfortable to be immature.”1 Trained on the three monotheistic religions, Lyotard frequently reverts to Abraham on instant replay in order to score a number of crucial theoretical points. In his essay “Emma: Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis,” Emma, as the figure that deals out the wound of sexual difference, gets set up alongside Abraham as his improbablepartnerandcounterpart.Whatbindstheunlikelycouple?Both Emma and Abraham are staggered by a mode of address that they integrate only minimally, if at all. Tiny and disabled, they are traumatically called up by a force or voice or prod that cannot properly land in or near them. Yet, the call fatefully diverts them and something happens, jostling them, relating them to the unrelatable. The drama of sheer exposure, the pull of vulnerabilityovertakesthem.Thejoltthattheyreceivewhenpickingupthe untranslatable call or the call that only ever relays its own untranslatability , is something that resembles the shock of puberty—the rebellious blur bleedingoutofthedilemmaofimpairedcomprehension:“whatishappening (to me)?” These reflections, linking Emma to Abraham in a no-doubt transgressiveyetconvincingmanner,retrieveasenseoftheaffectiveshock thatLyotardistryingtocommunicate.Neitherundertheswayofhistorynor evenofanahistory,theseaffectiveshockscontinuetoworkthemselvesinto 1. Immanuel Kant, Was ist Aufklärung? ed. Ehrhard Bahr (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1977), 9, discussing why the majority who are freed from outer constraints (or taken off theleash,“vonfremderLeitungfreigesprochen[naturalitermajorennes]”)prefer to remain minors for the rest of their lives. Ronell_Text.indd 175 2/3/12 10:12 AM 176 Was war Aufklärung?/What Was Enlightenment? ourpolitical narratives, though their signalsvaryinintensityandrange.As disjunctive as the extramemorial events may seem—seriously clashing and nodoubtincompatible—theynonethelessmanagetoconveyanunaccountable upheaval, at once common yet irretrievably alien. Both Abraham and Emma are terror-riven as they try to fieldaderacinatingcallthatasksthem to stand up in submissive readiness. On one level they are commanded to respond to a call; ready or not, they are made to assume that a call is meant forthem.Thecallripsthroughthembeforetheyarepreparedtobecomewho they are, marking an experience of shattering decision. Lyotard designates the moment of faltering self-assumption as the passage through puberty. It would be wrongheaded to think that one could simply skip over the motifanddevelopmental-historicalstopoverofpubertywhenmodernpolitics have depended on teenaged mythologies and fast-tracking disasters. ForLyotardthehystericalaftershockthatpubertydemarcatesinethicsand as political tremor is of consequence. Puberty disturbs a certain level of inheritedcognitivetracks,reroutesmeaning,andstarklylibidinizesrelation toworldaccordingtothepressuresofanewlymintedlanguage.“Theadolescent does not reinterpret childhood representations. Rather, he interprets ‘sexually’whatinchildhoodwouldhavebeenpresentedinanotherlanguage. . . . these traces are affects. Puberty in no way creates them, as it creates only another ‘reading’ of an affect already there.”2 Drawing puberty onto the political platform of deed and reflection, Lyotard attempts to maintain something of a philosophical claim: “to speak in an intelligible fashion on the subject of the Id-side of the articulable, that is to say of the Nihil”(25). In effect, he turns away from an interpretation of drives and scrolls down to the Kantian Id-side of things—even though Kant remains too strongly attached, observes Lyotard, to subjectivist thought, that is, to a philosophy of consciousness. Nonetheless Kant has paved the way of a steep slope on the downside of nothingness, “the Id-side to which I am singularly host and hostage.” On the Id-side, Kant allows the particular to be subsumed under the general and to close off singularity. Peril advisory: To the extent that the passage through puberty is a general event, Emma’s case cannot be seen as singular, and hysteria must be the most common thing in the world. This is “an aporia lying in wait for all art, including psychoanalytic art, when it wants to make itself into a science: causal regularity crushes 2. Jean-François Lyotard, “Emma: Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis,” trans. MichaelSanders,RichardBrons,andNorahMartin,inLyotard:Philosophy,Politics, and the Sublime, ed. Hugh J. Silverman (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), 36. Subsequent references are cited parenthetically in the text. Ronell_Text.indd 176 2/3/12 10:12 AM 177 Was war Aufklärung?/What Was Enlightenment? the singularity of a case. It would require finding a difference specific to the hysteria of some unique type of being (humanity) in which we all share and that is constituted by late puberty” (37). If I am getting this right, the brand of hysteria ascribable to puberty cuts into the political performance in considerable ways. The excited teen, running high on self-inflationary fuel,anddisruptedbyanuntranslatableaddress,sparksthesceneofaction. Puberty’sclaimsannouncethemselvesaseachtimeunique,infullrevoltof whatis,buttheyareapplicableallaround,rubbingoutthesingularityofthe runaway teen spirit. What difference would insinuate itself into the most inevitable generality? The nothing and no-man’s-land of...


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